Suicide Bomber Attacks U.S. Base in Afghanistan During Cheney Visit
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2007 Saying that changing his itinerary was “never an option,” Vice President Richard B. Cheney stuck to his planned schedule after a suicide bomber’s attack this morning on an entry gate at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, where the vice president was visiting.
A U.S. servicemember, a coalition member and a U.S. government contractor whose nationality was not immediately known died in the attack, officials with Combined Joint Task Force 76 said.
Military officials had no information to report on Afghan civilian deaths; civilian media reports quote Afghan officials as saying 23 people were killed. U.S. officials reported 27 people were wounded, but did not provide information on their condition.
The suicide bomber blew himself up outside the base’s outermost gate.
Cheney told reporters traveling with him he heard “a loud boom” at about 10 a.m., and U.S. Secret Service officers informed him of the attack.
“They moved me for a relatively brief period of time to one of the bomb shelters nearby, near the quarters I was staying in,” he said. “And as the situation settled down and they got a better sense in terms of what was going on, then I went back to my room.”
Cheney and his traveling party were preparing to leave the air base during the incident and continued with their schedule.
The vice president said he had not heard that the Taliban had claimed responsibility for the attack. He added that he wasn’t willing to relent to what the terrorists were trying to accomplish. “I think they clearly try to find ways to question the authority of the central government,” he said. “Striking at Bagram with a suicide bomber, I supposed, is one way to do that. But it shouldn’t affect our behavior at all.”
Army Lt. Col. James E. Bonner, base operations commander here, called the attackers were "cowardly" and have “taken the lives of three people who were working to create a better Afghanistan.” He expressed condolences for those killed in the attack. “We mourn their loss and will not allow their deaths to deter us in our commitment to the government of Afghanistan and its people,” he said.
Bagram Air Base maintains high-level security around the clock, he said. “Our security measures were in place and the killer never had access to the base,” Bonner said. “When he realized he would not be able to get onto the base, he attacked the local population.”